BBC BLOGS - Tom Fordyce

Archives for July 2010

Secrets of the golden girl's success

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Tom Fordyce | 21:14 UK time, Saturday, 31 July 2010

On a balmy summer's night in Barcelona, Britain's Jessica Ennis stormed to European heptathlon gold with a stunning series of performances in the Estadio Olympico.

With the world title already to her name after her golden display in Berlin a year ago, Ennis has confirmed her place as the preeminent heptathlete on the planet. But what are the factors that have led to her domination, and what sets her apart from her rivals?

"She loves competing and has a steely determination," explains 1998 European champion Denise Lewis, whose British record Ennis came within eight points of on Saturday. "She relishes the sort of battle she had here in Spain.

"With this sport, there has to be a love of driving yourself forward and pushing your personal boundaries, exceeding what you think is possible - that's the beauty and secret of heptathlon. In every single event you're trying to deliver your maximum, and Jess absolutely relishes that.

"For a 24-year-old, she has rock-solid mental strength. Over the two days of competition, you have to keep this consistent feeling of patience and focus. You have to stay in the now. I know that's a phrase we use a lot, but it's so true in heptathlon.

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The night the party started

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Tom Fordyce | 22:46 UK time, Friday, 30 July 2010

The nicknames were knocked about all day - Fiesta Friday, Vamos Viernes, Fastuoso Friday, Viva El Viernes.

Ten finals, six British medals, personal bests with fat chunks taken out of them and a golden finish for one of the unsung talents of the GB team.

It was one of those frantic, action-packed nights that make a big athletics meet special - track final chasing track final, shocks and surprises coming thick and fast, almost every finish a ding-dong delight.

At one point it looked like being the stuff of UK Athletics chief Charles van Commenee's wildest fantasies. If the failure of the three British men in the 1500m denied him his big climax, it was still a breathless night of cut and thrust.

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Golden Idowu wins Le Crunch

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Tom Fordyce | 22:33 UK time, Thursday, 29 July 2010

Great Britain v France, part deux.

If Wednesday night and the searing finish of Christophe Lemaitre had put France 1-0 up, Thursday night was the second leg of the cross-Channel contest. In one corner, world champion Phillips Idowu, struggling all season; in the other, another Gallic tyro, Teddy Tamgho, big breakthrough star of athletics in 2010.

If Lemaitre is precocious, 21-year-old Teddy has already delivered. World indoor champion with a world indoor record, in New York in June he stunned the sport by producing 17.98 metres - making him the third longest jumper in history.

As the athletes lined up to be introduced to the Barcelona crowd, tip-toeing through the puddles on the blue runway, the contrast could not have been greater.

Idowu, poker-faced, responded to the cheers of the big British contingent with a muted wave. Tamgho, a ball of bouncing energy, took one look at the massed ranks of French fans with their painted faces and frantically waving tricolores and sprung away like Tigger on a trampoline.

"I'm a gorilla," Tamgho had said in the build-up. "But Phillips is a panther."

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How the golden boy can get even better

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Tom Fordyce | 23:08 UK time, Wednesday, 28 July 2010

In a thrilling 100m final in Barcelona's Estadio Olympico on Wednesday night, 20-year-old Christophe Lemaitre breezed clear from the best sprinters on the continent to write his name in the history books.

European champion at just 20 years old, already having dipped under 10 seconds and red-hot favourite for 200m gold on Friday, Lemaitre appears to have it all.

The bad news for his rivals? He should be able to go much, much quicker. As 1998 European 100m champion Darren Campbell explains, Lemaitre - who only took up athletics five years ago - is a still an uncut diamond.

"You're born with speed, but you're not born a perfect sprinter," says Campbell. "Lemaitre, with the raw ability and physical attributes he has, he can improve so much.

"It might sound strange to say it, but from a technique point of view, there's nothing I look at and think, that's really good."

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Happy endings as GB start with bang

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Tom Fordyce | 23:21 UK time, Tuesday, 27 July 2010

There were three particularly lovely moments in the giddy aftermath of Mo Farah's 10,000m gold and Chris Thompson's silver in the Estadio Olympico on Tuesday evening.

The first was Farah crossing the line arms outstretched, eyeballs popping, unconsciously replicating Kelly Holmes' famous pose as she celebrated her own golden moment in Athens six years ago.

The second was Thompson's reaction when grabbed by BBC Sport's Phil Jones for his reaction. "That was the greatest half-an-hour of my life," he gasped, before insisting he was off for a beer.

The third was Thompson, still disbelieving, planting a sloppy kiss atop his teammate's sweaty shaved head.

For both these men, Tuesday night represented the culmination of two very different but equally tortuous sporting journeys. That they celebrated in such liberated and unbridled fashion tells its own tale of the struggles both have endured.

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How Greene went from first round defeat to the brink of gold

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Tom Fordyce | 18:31 UK time, Tuesday, 27 July 2010

When you first speak to Dai Greene, his confidence is almost startling.

"There's only one outcome I want in Barcelona, and that's to take home the gold," says the 400m hurdler. "Going to the World Championships last summer there were various outcomes I would have been happy with, but not this time.

"I went to the GB trials as favourite and ran a season's best there. I've beaten my rivals from the UK by a considerable margin, and most of my rivals from around Europe as well, so I just have to do the same again as I did at the trials and I can come away with the gold."

This is not mere empty braggadocio from the 23-year-old Welshman. Not only has he clocked the five fastest times by a European this summer, but he has someone in his corner who knows more about coaching hurdlers to the top of the world than almost anyone else - Malcolm Arnold.

Arnold, the man who guided Colin Jackson to four European sprint hurdles titles, two World Championship golds and the world record, was also behind Ugandan John Akii-Bua's world record 400m hurdles run at the 1972 Olympics. Greene's improvement since the pair first hooked up 18 months ago is more than just an athlete reaching physical maturity.

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The prodigy with barriers to beat

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Tom Fordyce | 22:22 UK time, Monday, 26 July 2010

Headline or footnote?

When France's Christophe Lemaitre clocked 9.98 seconds to win the 100m at his national championships a fortnight ago, word zipped around the world several thousand times faster than he had run.

"The first white man under 10 seconds" roared the headlines.

L'Equipe pushed Le Tour to one side and stuck the gangly 20-year-old from Annecy on its front page. Sports fans who hadn't noticed athletics since Usain Bolt last summer were suddenly talking track again.

At the World Championships in Berlin 12 months ago, Lemaitre came and went almost unnoticed, disqualified for a false start in his first round heat. Not so in Barcelona. With the heats of the 100m due to get underway on the first day of competition, he is the name on everyone's lips.

But maybe not quite for the right reason.

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Achieng goes against the flow

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Tom Fordyce | 08:15 UK time, Monday, 26 July 2010

What was the biggest decision you made as a 13-year-old?

I think mine was deciding to spend my life savings on a 6ft x 3ft snooker table from Argos. My sister got her ears pierced, in direct contravention of parental orders. My colleague Ben Dirs borrowed his elder brother's prize Paul Smith suit trousers without permission and got punched on the nose when he returned them ripped at the knee.

Average teenage stunts, and about as far away as is possible to be from the size of the decision made by swimming prodigy Achieng Ajulu-Bushell.

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Ten steps to track and field perfection

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Tom Fordyce | 11:42 UK time, Thursday, 22 July 2010

Ahead of next week's European Championships I had the pleasure of spending a day with Phillips Idowu, world triple jump champion and possibly the most relaxed man to ever succeed in competitive sport.

I met Phillips in Gateshead at the Diamond League athletics meeting and the notion was to see how a top-flight athlete deals with the day of a big competiton - how the mind is kept calm and the body loose, what goes on in the anxious hours pre-comp, who prowls and who preens in the inner sanctum of the warm-up area.

From bubblewrap to golf balls, jam sandwiches to headphones, this is how Phillips does it all.

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